Kris Langham Answers How the Ministry Functions Financially
Well hello Through the Word family! Kris Langham here with an answer to a question that we get asked a lot around here. How does Through the Word function financially? We don’t charge for anything, we have zero ads, and we give everything away for free. How does that add up? No pay wall, no subscriptions, not even a giving guilt trip to pressure you to donate! So how do we keep producing great new content and improving the app?
Well, there’s a story behind it, and a philosophy of giving that has guided us through more than decade of ministry. So if you’re interested, I’ll tell you about it.
Now the simple answer is that we’re listener supported. Through the Word is a registered non-profit and people who listen donate. At this point, well over 99% of the funds that have kept us moving forward for the last decade have been donated directly by people who listen to and love Through the Word. That’s it.
But the coolest part of all of that—my favorite bit in the whole mix—is that every new donor that comes in—is paying it forward. And I love that, because it means that all of us can just be generous. No guilt giving, just generosity.
Jesus said, “Freely you have received; freely give.”
If you just started listening to Through the Word, and you say, “This is great. It’s so valuable in my life. I’d really like to cover my own costs.” You can’t. It’s a gift. Already paid. Somebody beat you to it, and you can’t pay for a gift.
Now don’t misunderstand. We so appreciate your donations, but anything you give now is paying it forward.
But let’s rewind a bit. How did all this paying forward get started? Who paid first?
Well, the honest answer to that question is in 1st Chronicles 29: “Everything in heaven and earth is Yours, O LORD. Wealth and honor come from you … Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”
It all starts with God. And here at Through the Word, long before co-founder Ryan and I ever had a crazy idea for a Bible app, we both gained so much from amazing Bible teaching ministries that gave away their content for free. It’s how I became a believer, and how we grew in the Word for years. Still do.
So when we had this big crazy idea for ten minute audio guides to every Bible chapter, we talked through a bunch of different strategies to fund it: subscription model, pay wall, ads, all viable. And different ministries function different ways and we totally respect that. But we just couldn’t shake the deep desire to just give it all away for free and reach as many people as possible. Jesus gave us so much, and we just wanted to pay it forward. And while ads make sense in a lot of cases, we just didn’t like the idea of selling ad space in your personal time with God.
One of the core passages that sealed the deal for me was in 2nd Corinthians 9. I tell more of the story in that Bible audio guide, but I love that verse that says:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever. Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” (2nd Corinthians 9:9-10)
For me, the seed is God’s word, and I just want to sow it, and let God grow the harvest. And he goes on:
“You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.”
In other words, God provides for you, so that you can be generous. Pay it forward. And the result? People with thank God. That’s the goal. That’s where the gratitude belongs.
So we went for it. We made the decision right up front to keep Through the Word free. All of it. Now mind you, that idea seemed crazy at the time. People talk about bootstrapping, I couldn’t even afford boot straps back then. Only thing I had to pull my boots up was faith. But we stepped out in that faith, and God provided, step after step.
We launched the app on a minimal budget, I set about recording, and Ryan set up the non-profit so we could accept donations. And amazingly, people listened, and people started giving. We never pressed hard for donations, just put it out there, and generous people stepped up. We had some lean years for a while and I worked my fair share of side jobs, but God was faithful and got us through. I won’t lie—we were on the edge more than once, but we held to our convictions and God held us together, and the mission moved forward.
Now more than a decade on, Through the Word is financially sound thanks to listeners like you who keep on paying it forward. We still don’t guilt trip for donations, and we never have to say we’re desperately in need of funds to survive because we’re not. God has provided. Listeners have been generous.
But I will tell you that we have lots more mission ahead. And when you give, we intend to keep paying it forward: keep recording new content, keep reaching new listeners.
Back in our first year, I remember when we reached 500 daily listeners. Amazing. And those listeners did three big things that kept us going: they prayed, they shared, and they gave. And the next year it was a thousand. They did the same, and it was three thousand. Then ten. Today it’s over a hundred and fifty thousand every day. But we’re not even close to done. If you want to pay it forward, three big opportunities still work: pray, share, and give.
And that’s the story. Well, one story. There are thousands of amazing stories here at Through the Word, and we love sharing them. So if you donate, please check out some of the listener stories that you make possible every month here. And thanks for listening to my story. And I’ll see you back on the journey.